A Letter to a Young Adult About Sex

This fictional letter is loosely based on many people that I have seen and learned from over the past decade. This letter tries to speak to the vulnerability of talking about sex with your child and your hopes for their emotional well-being. It intentionally leaves out any personal opinions, cultural norms, sexual identity, religion, or ideas about sex that can be individual to students and families. This is so the letter can be as neutral as possible.

There are several ways to go about this. One is to just give them the letter and let them take it in. Truthfully, children and even adult children don’t want to talk to their parents or caregivers about sex. But they will listen. They may not ask questions or say much after but they may hear you and you have to trust that that will be enough or at least it will be better than having said nothing at all.

A Letter to your College Student:

You are out in the world now and in so many ways, you on your own to figure out this thing called life. I know the whole world is telling you about things to watch out for… but deep down as your parent, I feel like it is my job to tell you the things in this letter at least once. These things weren’t talked about in my family. I learned about sex in locker rooms before gym and from the imaginations of my peers—we didn’t have the internet. Some of us didn’t talk about it at all, following in our parents’ footsteps. Other’s seemed to go out on sexual conquests in response to the silence at home to find out their own truth. It’s true we all have to find our own way, but it doesn’t hurt to hear some wisdom from those who walked this path before you. And still, I am not sure why it seems to go against the natural order of things to talk about sex with your child. So, if I seem awkward or unsure when we talk, this is why. Shouldn’t I be the first one to tell you about something so important?

So here it goes. The general message most people get when they are young is to not have sex. I know this. I got this message too. Then by the time you are young adults and parents know you are probably having it, no one ever talks about it. I think the reason for this is because sex can be so vulnerable and difficult to navigate even for the adults; we don’t even begin to know how to help our young people have sex in a safe and confident way. The truth is: no one knows what they are doingearly on. So when you do decide to have sex (past, present or future) these are my hopes.

I hope you can trust your body. If you want something, I hope you can ask for it and if you don’t, I hope you can say no. I hope you will take time to get to know and love your body on your own so that no other person ever determines the value of it. I hope the people you have sex with are trustworthy and kind because sex can be messy. It can be confusing. Emotions come up. People don’t know what they are doing and can feel insecure.

Sex can be difficult and confusing. Sometimes one person is having a great time and the other is feeling “just Ok”. It can be so hard to figure out how to communicate through that, to ask for what you need/want, or to ask what the person you are having sex with needs/wants so everyone can be enjoying sex. It can be so hard to stop when you realize you don’t really want to have sex. You thought you liked the person but now you’re not feeling it. Or it feels so good, you don’t care as much about anything but that…that can be normal for young people having sex (because it’s new and exciting) but we have to be careful. We have to care for those we are having sex with because it is right and good and because people can get hurt if we don’t. Sometimes we figure out we are good at sex and we can feel strong and powerful. People like us and we feel confident. We have to be careful with that too because we may be getting our self-worth from sex and we may not be seeing all of the other things we offer the world.

I hope you can take risks with communication even if it’s scary and even when you realize you are having sex or about to have sex with someone who doesn’t communicate really well. Not everyone will be good at communication or know how to reciprocate it. So after, when you find yourself feeling a strong hope that they liked it, and they say nothing, or “it was great” real quick but you’re still not sure…these are hard moments to know what to do with it. You deserve connection, to be with someone who can tell you how they feel. You deserve to be able to say how you feel. And if you find yourself with someone who can’t, I hope you have friends that you can talk to about it. Not all sex will be wonderful and it’s hard not to take it personally so my hope is that you have great community and friends to help remind you of how awesome you are.

I hope you know you deserve to be with someone who can be vulnerable. You will make mistakes; it will feel awkward; you will regret something. And I hope you can be gentle with yourself and know that sex does not define you and, like all things in life, it is something you practice and get better at. It’s not like the movies. I hope you are always with someone who respects you and wants you both to be safe. With people who say things like “it feels better without a condom” or “Oh C’mon let’s just film it for us” it is hard to think that they are really thinking about the other person’s well-being. If you ever feel pressured into having sex, I hope you can talk to someone—a friend, a counselor, a trusted adult.

I know sex is fun and feels good. I am a human being also. And I hope you can also see the “bigness” of sex and listen to yourself about what you want. Sex means a lot of different things to different people. We take the time we need to figure out what we want and need with all the other big stuff (school, careers, friends and in most major life decisions). I hope you will give yourself that with sex also. Take time to really look at your values and what you feel you want and are ready for so you only have sex when you are ready and feel good about it and who it is with. And if you make a mistake and have sex and regret it, know that that is normal too and you can always decide to do things different next time. What matters it to keep checking in and being honest with you.

From, a parent who loves you

On our resources website I share 2 resources about sex that can be helpful. There’s a website iwannaknow.org/links.html that has useful info and then there is a youtuber Hannah Witton who talks about all things sex.

So, I hope all of this been helpful. Bridge Box has had some information about concent and safety in our previous boxes and future boxes will have other information and tips about relationships and communication.

If there is anything you want to hear about, please just ask and I will write about it. Let me know If you have any questions.

From all of us at Bridge Box, Happy Fall!!!

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Carey J. Cook, LPC

Carey J. Cook, LPC

Carey J Cook is a Licensed Professional therapist in Asheville, NC. She has a private practice and is the co-founder of Bridge Box which was inspired by her work with college students. In different capacities, Carey has provided education and therapy to college students and families for over a decade. Carey seeks to understand and support college students during this phase of life and provide tangible tools to students via Bridge Box.